Friday, June 29, 2012

If So, an Evil One

 Roberts Hands Fedgov another Big Stick to use on Citizens

A lot of conservative activists were shocked and outraged when they learned that Bush appointee John Roberts was the key swing vote which decided that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance under Obamacare was constitutional.      Some found evidence, which seems pretty credible, that Roberts switched his vote at the last minute and was originally going to join with the Justices who wished to overturn this essential provision of the act.    Others sought rationalizations which would enable them to keep deluding themselves into thinking that there is any real difference between the two political parties at the highest level.    The most common of these I have heard is that Roberts was some sort of genius who has dealt Obama a painful political blow with this ruling.

    If Roberts is a genius, he's an evil one.    Rush Limbaugh's first instinct on this was correct.   Justice Scalia's opinion on it was correct.  Peter Schiff is correct.    The ruling is awful.   The writer who lauds him as a "genius" does so on the assumption that this was deft political calculus, not brilliant justice.  He writes....
"..... he forced liberals to have to come clean and admit that Obama-care is funded by tax increases.     Although he didn’t guarantee Romney a win, he certainly did more than his part and should be applauded."
 When things like that become the motivations for Supreme Court decisions then the court has been politicized to the point where it is useless for its intended purpose of peacefully resolving legal issues in an impartial manner.    "Forcing liberals to come clean" about their imposition of taxes is not a proper function of the court, nor is maximizing the political fortunes of the candidate of a particular party.      Such a practice will destroy any remaining shred of credibility citizens place in the federal courts.   It's playing with hellfire.

Here we have a man claiming to be a conservative who would not legislate from the bench.  Yet the Senators who voted for the bill, the President who proposed it, and the lawyers for the administration who argued for it all denied that it was a tax.   They all said they were basing their authority to pass the bill on the interstate commerce clause.  Conservative jurists are supposed to consider the intent of the legislators who voted for the bill and the Executive who agreed to it rather than impose their own views on legislation.   Yet this so-called conservative jurist tells all the people who made this bill a law that their intent is irrelevant- he will decide that the bill is OK by imposing his own intent on it.    He will OK it using a reasoning they did not even claim.    It's judicial activism at its worst, and if done for political reasons, most cynical.  By the way, if the individual mandate is a tax then the whole law is illegal anyway because the bill originated in the Senate.

The reasoning of his opinion was awful, indefensible even.   Are some among us so debased that we will cheer awful reasoning which expands the power of the federal government just because it gives temporary political advantage to some politician that nobody really likes anyway?   What has happened to the morals and integrity of the people in this country?   Almost as importantly, what has become of their minds?

Saying that it did not expand the interstate commerce clause is not much of a plus, because that clause has already been expanded to where it serves to cover all manner of federal abuse.   When the courts have already agreed that this clause allows the feds to punish a man for growing wheat on his own land that he fed his own animals, as it has in the Wickard case, then the law needs no expanding.   All Roberts did was say they can't use it to punish you for not engaging in commerce.

In fact, Roberts has just handed the feds a big new stick the feds can use to beat us regular citizens with.   Roberts has said that the federal government can increase our tax burden over what it would otherwise be for failing to purchase specific products or perform specific acts.     Oh, don't get me wrong, the individual income tax is the root problem here.   It ought to be scrapped at once.  It's the primary vehicle the feds use to reach out and control the behavior of the citizens.   The Founders would be shocked to hear that the central government considered it their business to know how much income each citizen had earned each year, from whence it was derived, and could claim a varying share of it depending on whether or not the citizen complied with the wishes of Congress.  

Still, tax some deductions are more like carrots.   They are "rewards" for doing what the government wants you to do with your money.    What Roberts has done is hand them a new stick.   They can now punish you for failing to do what they want you to do with your money.     Thanks to Republican Roberts (and Romney cited him as the kind of man he would appoint) the Federal government now has a new stick to hit you with, not just a carrot to entice you.    You better believe this won't be the only time they use it.

Under Robert's politically convenient but logically flawed argument, the penalty was simply another tax on income.   But that's not correct.    Two persons in the exact same tax circumstances, with the exact same income, taking the exact same deductions, would pay different amounts based not on their income, but their behavior.     If one failed to purchase health insurance they would face a tax penalty not based on income at all, but based on behavior.   The tax is collected through the income tax collection code, but it is not a tax on income, if it is a tax at all it is a tax on behavior.    The federal government is only empowered by the 16th amendment to collect direct taxes (that is taxes directly from the citizen to the government) on income, not behavior.

There will be no end to the mischief that politicians of both parties will devise with this new power to penalize you for failing to purchase products their corporate contributors wish you to buy.   If John Roberts is a genius, he's an evil one.

The Courage to Face the Truth

"Most people prefer to believe that their leaders are just and fair, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen acknowledges that the government under which he lives is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it. To take action in the face of corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one's self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice. Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all." - Micheal Revero
The two dominant political parties have taken turns ruining the country, and no longer represent the interests of the average citizen.   This conclusion is so obvious and inescapable to anyone who looks at the evidence that very many of us make a tremendous effort at mental evasion in order to avoid facing this reality.    These rationalizations help people avoid facing the painful truth of how much work will have to be done to restore the Republic.     What they don't do is contribute to solving the problem.    Tyranny marches on while those who might challenge it retreat into comfortable delusions that if only we elect the red fascist instead of the blue socialist all, or at least most, will be well.      
The inconvenient truth I wish more of my fellow citizens would face is that we have a two-party problem, a systemic problem, the answer to which will require deeper reform than simply alternating the two cooperating sides every election cycle.   I salute those of you who have faced this reality, and there are more of us everyday, but we are still outnumbered by those who prefer two false paths.   One such path is taken by people who angrily retreat from civic involvement on some excuse such as "they are all crooks."  That they are does not excuse you from defending your children's future, it just means that you need to start from the ground up to do so rather than out-source the job of protecting your freedom to the crooks.    
The other escapist route that is so popular is one in which people prefer to live in a fantasy world where one of the dominant political parties headquartered in Washington D.C. and funded largely by global interests will somehow defend their freedom and property when they are the very entities which have been taking them. They say, "well OK I admit that the other side is not just and fair, but my party is. I don't have to make any serious changes.  All we have to do is get our party in there."
 They cling to the belief, in spite of all objective evidence to the contrary, that if only their side wins the election something will change.       It never has before, and the candidates at the top now are worse than they ever have been.  Yet in order to avoid facing their responsibility to act on this information they choose to continue to believe that they need only work through the organs through which they have worked all their lives.   They won't dare consider the possibility that both parties have been taken over by interests hostile to limited government as spelled out in the Constitution.   That would obligate them to get outside their comfort zone as described in the quote used to start this article.
Nothing less than a New American Revolution is required to restore our lost Republic.   The political parties are simply coalitions of special interest groups, the most powerful of which are international or global in nature.   The further a public office holder rises up in either of these private clubs, the less likely it is that they serve the public.
Jesus said "you cannot put new wine into old wineskins."     We can no longer place 100% of our political chips on either establishment political party.   There is a solution, but it requires maturity, patience, understanding, and most of all courage, to pursue.   I look forward to working with those are willing to see.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Don't Hate Authority, Hate Abuse of Authority

Christ Demonstrating the Proper Affect of One in Authority

We live in times where the powers that be are increasingly losing the trust of the average person.   Young people look around today and what they see in high places is layer upon layer of corruption.   They see it in government, they see it in the media.  They see corruption at the upper tiers of much of the corporate world, and especially in high finance.

It would be easy for them to take the wrong lesson from what they have experienced and I fear that many of them are taking the wrong lesson.   Rather than objecting to the abuse of authority, they are very close to rejecting the legitimacy of authority itself, especially as it relates to governmental authority.    In so doing, they risk becoming rebels, not just against illegitimate authority, but against all authority, just or unjust.

I'd like to make government a lot smaller than it is now, in particular I'd like to reduce the power, scope, and cost of the central government.   But that does not mean that I think we'd be better off without a government.   As bad as a corrupt government is, the realities of living without a government in a society of fallen people would be much worse.     One of many reasons I exhort people to live a life of personal  virtue is that it permits the reduction of government.  Virtuous people have no need of masters.   The weak and the wicked do.   Thus a virtuous population is the best defense against big government.

It's true that for most of human history government has been wicked, violent, and oppressive.    It often represented nothing more than the toughest gang rather than an institution with the just mission of preserving the rights of those under its protection.     In the West, that changed as a new concept of what authority meant and how it ought to be exercised saturated the culture.    Authority become more than power under this new concept, it became a duty of love and justice.   Where did this new concept come from and how did it differ from what happened before?  And most critically, why is it fading from the cultural fabric?
The new concept of authority, which changed the world, came from the scriptures.  In Mark chapter 10 (Amplified version) James and John ask to be Christs' right and left hand man in the Kingdom He is setting up.    They want the authority.   The other disciples get indignant at James and John because of their request.    In a beautiful passage of Scripture, Jesus explains the difference between what "authority" means and how it is used in His Kingdom vs. what it means and how it is used in the Gentile nations, whose governments lack the wisdom of Divine guidance......
42 But Jesus called them to [Him] and said to them, You know that those who are recognized as governing and are supposed to rule the Gentiles (the nations) lord it over them [ruling with absolute power, holding them in subjection], and their great men exercise authority and dominion over them.
43 But this is not to be so among you; instead, whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant,
44 And whoever wishes to be most important and first in rank among you must be slave of all.
45 For even the Son of Man came not to have service rendered to Him, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for ([y]instead of) many.
Various people, at various stages of their lives, can benefit from authority.    When my young anarcho-capitalist friends have children of their own they will better understand.   Authority, even government authority, is not intrinsically evil.  At its best it restrains evil.  Even a very corrupt government, if it rules an even more corrupt population, can restrain evil.     But like Washington said, it's like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearful master.    As long as the weak and wicked are among us, it will be needed in some form.   
 Even today the high officials of many governments in the Old World are called "ministers" out of recognition that their office was supposed to be one of service to God and man.      In the United States they secularized the titles in part because they were leery of government's attempt to co-opt religion for the state's own use,   but the Biblical concept of authority ran deep in the culture.  
What's happened to us is that we have separated from our culture the conviction that the Biblical world view is the correct one.   Why be surprised then when the uniquely just view of authority upheld in scripture is lost as well?   When one tosses out the baby of the Christ Child, the cleansing bath water of a high view of government goes with Him.   What happens then is that those in power, freed from the restraint of a Godly view of authority permeating the culture, revert to the more corrupt exercise of power which predated the ascension of the Judo-Christian concept.     Those young people who arrived after the eclipse of the previous view of authority look at authority, and all they see it rot.   No wonder they conclude that authority is intrinsically wicked.
Of course, properly exercised  authority (that is, exercised in the manner prescribed by Christ) is not evil at all.     It's service, not self-serving.   It protects rights, it does not threaten them.   It's not a cover-up of their dirt, it's a clean-up of dirt for those under their authority.   Just before the Crucifixion He bowed down and washed the feet of His disciples.   They protested that it was not right that He, the Messiah, was washing their feet, but He was trying to show them something.   This is what Authority looks like when properly exercised.  It's humility and service.
12 So when He had finished washing their feet and had put on His garments and had sat down again, He said to them, Do you understand what I have done to you?
13 You call Me the Teacher (Master) and the Lord, and you are right in doing so, for that is what I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher (Master), have washed your feet, you ought [it is your duty, you are under obligation, you owe it] to wash one another’s feet.
 We don't need anarchy, not while we are still this weak and wayward.  Nor do we need more rulers who buy into the pre-Christian concept of authority.   We need a return to a concept of authority that subjects it to the Highest Authority of all.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Republican Congressmen Make Conservative "Hall of Shame"

I have already written about how the Club for Growth and some national Tea Party groups rated Congressman Tim Griffin as "one of the biggest betrayers of the Tea Party."     I did not think the assessment was fair simply because Tim Griffin has always been a creature of the beltway.   He was never a grassroots conservative, and he only pretended to be a little bit.   Anyone who cared to could have seen through it.  Griffin takes his orders from Rove and company, not his alleged constituents.  

Well now Heritage Action and the Club for Growth have come out with a new list.  Griffin is not on it, but the other two Republican Congressmen from Arkansas, Steve Womack and Rick Crawford, are.     The list is interesting because it looks at who is in a solid conservative district and grades them based on how conservative they voted versus how conservative a district they have.    The list is of members who live in conservative districts who could have been conservative stalwarts, who ought to have been conservative stalwarts given who they were supposed to be representing, but who fell far short of being a conservative in their actual records.  It is called the Madison Project Hall of Shame.

Steve Womack for example, is in a solid conservative district.   The Republican vote is on average +16 over the Democrat vote.    You would think a guy like that would vote for the conservative position, maybe not every time, but nine times out of ten.   That was the standard they used- on the 85 most conservative districts in the nation 90% correct voting on this kind of legislation was the standard.    His actual vote was 55%.  He barely voted for the conservative position more than half the time.    According to their "Madison Performance Index" he was 35 percent shy of where he ought to be given his district composition.

Rick Crawford is a little different story.  Sure his district leans Republican for the Presidential race, but that does not always translate to a GOP congressional vote.  Still, the district counts as a Republican leaner by eight points.   This is far less safe than the 3rd district's +16, but given that many of the Democrat votes are conservative Democrats it could still be one of the 85 most conservative districts in the nation.   Crawford scored 55.5%, almost identical to Womack, but because his district is less solid conservative than Womack's, Crawford did not do as badly, with a "Madison Performance Index" of -27.    

Griffin is not in a conservative district, and so he escaped scrutiny in this report.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Local Bond Issue Price Fixing

The brilliant Matt Tabbi has a piece up about a widespread Wall-Street scam on local governments.   It appears that the big bond houses have engaged in a form of bid-rigging connected to the use of proceeds on local government debt.  Basically local governments back a bond issue with a stream of funds from, for example, a tax increase.   But the money generated by the bond issue is not spent all at once.  It could take years.   What should be done with the money in the meantime?   Cities and counties hire brokers to conduct auctions to sell the right to use the parked money for an interest rate.  Basically they are bidding for the right to invest the money.  

The winners get the right to invest the money , and as long as they pay the state or local government the return that they promised in the bid, they can keep the excess.  What Tabbi has learned is that there has been collusion.  The brokers are bribed.    Instead of getting the best interest rate possible for the locality, they have been taking turns tipping off their favorite bidders so that they can win the bid using the lowest interest rate possible.

Every fraction of a percent difference between what the local governments should have gotten and what they actually get can mean tens of thousands of dollars.   We may never know how much taxpayer money has been scammed in the last decade by some of the largest and most respected financial institutions in the country, but Tabbi points out that just four of the many banks involved in the scam have agreed to pay restitution of $637 million dollars in order to avoid prosecution!

That brings me to Arkansas, but it likely applies to whatever state you are in.   Politicians from both parties seemed determined to use debt for all manner of public works, even when they could pay cash.     There seems to be an allergic reaction to Pay-as-You-Go.    With the last issue of debt against our federal highway money there was a big emphasis from pro-debt politicians like Republican Representative Nate Bell of Mena on how investment programs like this one greatly lowered the effective cost of borrowing.   

Well, there is no doubt that investing a huge pile of borrowed money in CDs or something will reduce your net borrowing costs verses not investing the waiting money at all.    But that was never the real question. Back then the fiscal debate was whether this would be more cost effective than not borrowing at all.     Now I see that there is another issue we should consider in all this- is the rate the state and localities are getting on their sitting money really the best rates they could get?

In other words, this trial showed that bid-rigging had been occurring all across the nation for a long period of time.   The question is, has this state been an island of propriety in a sea of scam?   I don't have any proof that the same thing has been going on here, but my credulity threshold has been breached.    The revelation of this scam is yet another reason the people should vote down the routine use of debt.

Look, the math that debt proponents use is flawed anyway.   I don't want to bore readers with the intricacies of cost accounting, and if he was willing Jason Tolbert would be better at it anyway, but here it is in a nutshell:  The proponents are counting all the benefits of using debt, but not subtracting out the opportunity costs and especially the risks.   This gives a false picture that makes it seem like more debt is a better deal for the taxpayers than it really is.

Say for example you borrowed $600 million on a ten year income stream of which $80 million a year would be for loan payments, and that your interest for that loan amounted to $200 million.  That is to say, your income stream equaled principal plus interest.    So far so good.   But since you got the $600 million all at once but took three years to spend it you hired someone to invest the parked money for you.  If they got you 5% and you spent $200 million year one but took two years to spend the rest that would be  ( $400 million X .05) + ($200 million X .05) =  $20 million + $10 million = $30 million.    That would lower the effective amount of interest paid on the loan from $200 million to $170 million.    That's where proponents usually stop the math.

What they should include is the opportunity costs of the lost money that is collected to pay that interest.  IOW, governments are not the only ones who can invest money.  Us regulars can too.  When they take money from us to park it and invest it, there is no assurance they will do a better job than we will.   If Tabbi has it right there is reason to believe they will do worse.    

If one is going to count investment returns of parked money as a plus, one should also count the lost opportunity cost of money collected to pay interest rather than plowed back into the state's economy.    Once your tax stream matches all principle you spent, the stream of money you spend repaying interest represents money that the citizens could have parked that is instead diverted to interest repayments.  After 7 1/2 years your tax stream equals all the principle of the bond.   The rest of the time you are just paying interest.  

At $80 million a year it takes two and a half years to pay $200 million in interest.  So the first $80 million you lose (as something you can invest) for 2.5 years.  That costs you (at .05%) of roughly $10 million dollars.  The second $80 million, which you lose for a year and a half costs your around $6 million.   Losing the investment use of the last $80 million for the last half year would be worth about $2 million.     That's a total opportunity cost of $18 million.

So the $30 million we "saved" in interest costs by investing parked money must be reduced by the amount of money we could have made if we could have spent the money we spent on interest on investing instead.   Instead of $200 million being reduced to $170 million, it was shaved only to $188 million.     And if private investors are better at investing their own money than government bureaucrats are at investing other people's money through a financial system that has just been revealed as a scam in federal court, then it is possible that leaving that money in the public's hands as long as possible would produce an even higher return on the invested funds.     That would reduce the "savings" from the whole complicated deal even more.

But of course, investments you make with your own money, whether in your home, your health, your retirement, your family, or whatever, don't seem to mean much in political accounting these days.   Only the returns they make on the money they take from you counts.   The return you would have made if they had waited to take your money (funding a bond issue with future tax revenues is equivalent to taxing you early) until they really needed it does not seem to figure in their calculations. 

They really think pre-taxing, that is using a promise of future revenue to get a big pile of money at some cost before they even need it, is a conservative way to govern!   To hear some of them tell it, if they taxed us every dollar above subsistence and used it to fund a mega-bond issue whose parked proceeds were invested by some of the criminal banksters caught in this scam, why we'd be better off than ever!  And the sick thing is, these are some self-declared conservatives that are trying to sell us this stuff.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

" Blind Tribalism" and Huckabee

  Southern Man Don't Need Her Around Anyhow

The Arkansas Times cites fondly the screed of  Alabama native Diane McWhirter, who moved to New York City.   She decries the "reason-blind tribalism" of her home state for their tough laws on illegal immigration.  They write...
It's about her shame over the "reason-blind tribalism" in her home state of Alabama. Following decades of disgrace in treatment of black people, Alabama now brings itself equal dishonor in treatment of immigrants, particularly Latinos.
You have got to be kidding me.   There is no comparison to the treatment of blacks who were brought here against their will and made slaves and forced to the back of the bus by law and illegal immigrants, Latino or otherwise, who force their way into our society in violation of our laws and who still get better treatment than many nations give their own citizens.     It is my view that most Alabama citizens of African descent who are being crowded out of the job market by these illegals would share that assessment.

Ms. McWhirter, if you have to be ashamed of some place you have lived, why not make it your current home of New York City?    Your city is the home of Wall Street and the big banks, which are a financial parasite latched onto the buttocks of our once prosperous nation.     Those of us in the heartland are expected to bail out the inhabitants of your city, so that they can continue to award themselves million dollar bonuses for wrecking the economy.     If there is anyplace in America where one ought to be ashamed of the culture, it's New York city with its insufferable arrogance and outrageous sense of entitlement.    Were it not for the working folks in Alabama and the rest of the U.S. taking on the liabilities from the bad bets of the millionaire banksters in your city, it would look like Detroit about now.

The ArkTimes also speaks fondly of Mike Huckabee (though they did not do so when he was here)...
The former Arkansas Republican governor spoke eloquently on the evil of racial segregration. He advocated school consolidation and tax increases to pay for it. He presided over an unprecedented expansion of welfare in the form of medical coverage for children. He held his arms open to scholarship help for immigrant children without established citizenship.
Could Mike Huckabee win a Republican primary in today's Republican Party?
 No, he could not.  Because it became obvious over time that he was a pro-life liberal.    We are about to have a fiscal crisis in Arkansas because we cannot afford to pay for all of his "unprecedented expansion of welfare in the form of medical coverage for children."      In the end, he was just another big-government republican who misled conservatives into helping him get to the top.   He then turned on them and engaged in the same unsustainable policies that got us into this mess.   

I'll take the honest God-fearing folks of Alabama over the jaded, arrogant, welfare-recipient "Masters of the Financial Universe" any day.      And I'd probably take most of them for Governor over another Huckabee term as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Will Your State Employees Get Their Retiree Benefits?

Click on image for a larger look.  Click here for the Pew Research Center full report

Corporate executives and politicians negotiating with unions have tended to reach for the same eases fixes.   Instead of raising pay, which would effect the bottom line immediately, the agreed to pay more generous retirement benefits, which kicks the can down the road.    Well, the end of the road is in plain sight.   GM was made bankrupt by the cost of unfunded health care liabilities.    Increasingly it appears that states will be in a similar situation.   

While pensions are also generally underfunded, in percentage terms retiree health benefits tend to have the biggest gap.   Arkansas for example has $1.8 billion in unfunded retiree health care liabilities, which is about equal to a quarter's tax revenues.    Each year, contributions to the system (probably the retiree's share of premiums) cover only 24% of the annual expense.      And Arkansas, though bad, is not the worst of the bunch.  Basically it looks like all state governments, whether run by Republicans or Democrats, kicked this can down the road and kept their fingers crossed hoping that some sort of national health care system would come along and relieve them of a liability that almost none of them have made provision for.
While Arkansas has funded 75% of its state retiree pension liability, the amount is so large that it still represents a tremendous amount of defacto debt, around $5.75 billion dollars.    That's in a state of about 3 million living souls.  And Arkansas is slightly better off than the average state.   
When considering such things as whether to take on more debt this November (the ballot initiative to raise sales taxes in Arkanas would be used to back another bond issue) bear in mind that these two items alone mean that each family of four in the state already has what amount to over $11,000 dollars in state debt to pay down.   And that does not even include the $300 million that Gov. Beebe borrowed from the feds without authorization from the voters for unemployment insurance benefits, much less the unhidden debt from various bond issues.   
These same types of issues are going to come up all over the nations as politicians whose vision cannot extend past the next election desperately seek ways to avoid paying for their extravagant promises.

Cheating Widespread in State Campaign Financing

Max Brantley emphasizes the Republican angle, but even his report shows that office holders from both parties are guilty of violating state campaign finance law.   Specifically the law which prevents one candidate from giving money to the campaign of another.   The loophole?   If they can prove it helps their own campaign, they can purchase a ticket to a ticketed event.   When the candidates doing the donating don't even have an opponent, its kind of hard to make that claim with a straight face, but some of them have the skill and audacity required to pull that off.

The way it works is that an old veteran who may not even have an opponent buys a ticket to a fundraiser for a candidate who is in a tough race.   Heck, it could even be money that came from a donor that has already maxed out contributions to the candidate in the tough race, effectively end-running campaign contribution limits as well.   In many cases, they don't even attend the events they gave the contribution to "in order to help their own campaign."   It's clearly breaking the law.    It's a end-run on campaign limits and the ban on one candidate using his campaign stash to buy influence.    Both parties are guilty of using the practice to send money to funnel extra money to candidates who can't seem to get it by following the law.

Between that and the policy of pocketing their "office expense" money without ever having an actual office, it seems like we have a lot of unethical practices going on from the men and the women who write our laws.

Mis-Education and Mental Illness

Mis-education may be a larger problem in America today than ignorance. As the government-controlled education establishment continues to indoctrinate people with misinformation and logically incompatible premises we run into an intractable problem: People who believe that they are educated are actually further from moral and physical reality than the uneducated.
  It is all too easy for such mis-educated people to dismiss all disagreement with their views as ignorance and all dissension from their moral perspective as bigotry.
Thus the formally recognized status of their mis-education can actually serve to wall them off from learning anything. It protects their fragile world-view, for a time, from having to compete in the marketplace of ideas. What matter if their positions are logically indefensible? Who needs logic when one has credentials?
  Mis-education is not, in theory, limited to any part of the political spectrum.   But because the government backs the statist left, it manifests in the United States most often from those who consider themselves liberals (but are actually leftists rather than classical liberals.)  Being distant enough from moral and physical reality so that it seriously interferes with functioning in everyday life is a pretty good definition of insanity.  Indeed one veteran psychiatrist has determined that today's 'liberals' are "mentally ill."  Personally I am not comfortable with the idea of labeling disagreement with my political views as a psychiatrist disorder, but the left does it all the time (see "homophobia") so I suppose whats' sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Here is how Dr. Rossiter frames it from the above link..
“Based on strikingly irrational beliefs and emotions, modern liberals relentlessly undermine the most important principles on which our freedoms were founded,” says Dr. Lyle Rossiter, author of the new book, “The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness.” “Like spoiled, angry children, they rebel against the normal responsibilities of adulthood and demand that a parental government meet their needs from cradle to grave.”
I am not a trained mental health professional, but I can testify that my attempts to engage leftists in rational dialogue reveal some very important truths; namely that they are not interested in rational dialogue.   Reason is treated as an alien enemy, not an indispensable tool for determining truth.     What they want is an echo chamber where their delusions are supported by others who share them.     

Dr. Rossiter focuses on a desire to evade responsibilities as the seminal issue in their neuroses, or psychosis depending on degree of detachment.  He's the doctor, but I would zoom out a bit. Many leftists meet their daily responsibilities quite well, especially those propped up with paychecks from the government and government supported academia. I suspect the larger issue is a desire to put short term emotional satisfaction over truth.   

I will never forget what an old black Pentecostal preacher said to us at a revival I was attending; "Emotions make a good caboose, but a bad engine."  Our minds, renewed by and connected to the Holy Spirit of God, ought to be the Engine. If we do that then our lives will be guided by reason, justice, principle, and truth. The cars of the train should be our actions which follow along where the engine of our mind takes us.

Lastly, the caboose should be the emotions. We will have positive emotions if our minds are right, and our right actions follow our right minds.  People who put emotions first fall into a trap. They want to feel good now regardless of what the righteous mind might think of it and regardless of what the actions will lead to in the long run.  People who put feeling good first often wind up miserable.  People who put right thinking first wind up with the most satisfying emotions as a side-effect.

What I believe is happening here is that leftists want to put emotions over reason. That is the core of their psychosis.  Feeling right matters more than thinking right. When this desire to indulge short-term emotions over logic, reason, and truth leads to painful consequences, rather than re-examine the propriety of their priorities they simply call for the government to "fix it".  I see it all as an attempt to keep living with their emotions first instead of putting reason first.

This mal-adjustment leads them to support unsustainable policy answers in which "the government" somehow has the resources to insure that we are all taken care of regardless of the quality of our personal decisions.   Rush Limbaugh once noted that being a 'liberal' was the most gutless decision a person could make because they can just say "yes" to everyone.  "Yes, you deserve free health care and a college education.  Yes you deserve affordable housing.   Yes you deserve a living wage."    Anyone who is in any pain, you can just say "yes" they can have what they want, even if they have not earned it.

Again, it feels good to be able to tell people "yes", but sane people don't tell other people "yes" just to feel good.   They only tell people "yes" when it is a reasonable request that can be realistically paid for.  Leftists do tell people "yes" in order to feel good about themselves. They then blame the delivery failure not on the impossibility of their promises, but rather "the rich."  Those awful rich who greedily want to keep what they earn rather than surrendering it in order to validate the leftist's emotional desire to feel good by promising what is not theirs.

 In truth, if we looted the rich even more than we do, we would find they don't have enough to satisfy the promises already made. Not that the rich would consent to hang around and be looted. They would of course flee the country rather than have their fortunes confiscated in a hopeless attempt to sate the appetite of insane people. That's why leftist demagogues always wind up turning their guns on the middle class. They are the only group with enough resources to loot but not enough to be able to defend themselves or escape the government looting.

The government has basically bought education in this country. And because they have they spirit of free inquiry has been stamped out. It has been replaced by indoctrination posing as education. No ideas that are a threat to the statist status-quo will be tolerated- and this will even be done in the name of "tolerance!" And of course the ideas they push are ideas that government is good, and that it is right and just. They teach that it is realistic to think the wise rulers in Washington can solve all our ills if only given more power and money. That's what "education" will devolve to every time it is funded by the central government, as far as I can tell without exception. 

I recently chimed in on a FB discussion where the instigator posted a George McGovern quote about how bigotry against women was the only acceptable bigotry left. I mentioned that he said that before bigotry against Christians became so popular. His friends jumped all over me demanding to know where this bigotry was. I showed them. They then said basically the victim in my example had it coming because bigoted Christians should stay out of politics.  I calmly showed conclusive evidence demonstrating this view did not square with the position taken by either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. At that point, they said that I was a white male, and as such had no business highjacking a thread about bigotry against women, and that they would no longer respond.    Ah, the sex and race card. So, who is supposed to be the bigot again?

The above is but one example of something I have begun to experience more and more often.   Leftists claim the mantle of intellect and reason, but they are not interested in having to use either to defend their positions. They don't want logic and reason.  They don't want dialog. Thomas Paine (a real liberal) once said, " 'To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.'"   Most of them have not formally renounced the use of reason yet, but they are getting close to making that break with the last link in their mind.  The are close to casting off the last tow line they might use to begin the long, painful, but ultimately rewarding journey back to moral and physical reality.

A Legal Immigrant Points Out Obama's Amnesty Injustice

 There's a right way and a wrong way to immigrate to the United States

I am writing to express my disapproval of President Obama's executive order on June 15, 2012 that now grants certain illegal aliens the right to remain in the U.S. and to apply for work permits. I find this extremely disturbing in light of the fact that now U.S. citizens and people desiring to come to the U.S. legally will have to face extra pressure from this new group of individuals that gets work authorization by executive order. Legal immigrants looking to come to the U.S. under employer sponsorship require that the employer file a 'labor certification' to determine if there are no otherwise qualified U.S. citizens that can perform the job. By granting these illegal aliens work authorization, they can bypass the 'labor certification' process as they are now, for purposes of obtaining a job, as good as a U.S. citizen.

I am Hispanic, and graduated with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Arkansas in 2007. In 2011 I became a legal permanent resident of the United States through a National Interest Waiver petition based on my work in nanotechnology, advanced degree and track record. I did not have the sponsorship of any work, organization or family. I did NOT qualify for any sort of work permit on the basis of being enrolled or graduated from college ALONE.

I find it extremely disheartening that this administration and those advocates of so-called immigration reform continue to put the cart before the horse and reward illegal behavior and grant them benefits before those LEGAL immigrants that have taken the time and effort to get employer sponsorship for a work visa or residence, or build a track record to apply for permanent residence on their own merits. What message is this sending to those that are in the process of becoming legal residents? or pursuing jobs here in the U.S. legally? Why would employers bother to go through 'labor certification' when illegal aliens with work authorization can take the job without the need for the employer to spend money on fees or forms?

Today's decision sends the message to those pursuing work here legally and to those wanting to come from abroad legally that they are going to be passed over in favor of individuals that have not taken steps to follow the law or to mitigate the system other than to demand their rights. And while the answer is not deportation or jail, one has to wonder, if the cost of jailing or deporting illegal aliens is prohibitive, what is going to be the cost of having these individuals to file their paperwork? There is a finite number of immigration workers who are already looking at cases of legal and illegal immigrants (with priority given to illegal aliens in the process of deportation). So, wouldn't granting these illegal aliens work permits (which is a physical document that will require photograph and fingerprints taken - like a driver's license) add an extra burden on the system, immigration workers, and LEGAL immigrants that will have their legitimate cases further delayed in favor of these illegal aliens that will have their processes expedited?

There is a solution, but it is not this, as from the very mouths of these illegal alien students they have said that they will not stop until they get nothing less than U.S. citizenship. The least that could be done is ask this illegal alien students to hold themselves up to the same standard that legal immigrants are subject to. Ask any employer if they are willing to hire anybody that does not have work authorization, and ask any LEGAL immigrant how HARD it is to get work authorization.

This is an absolute outrage and only the first step that will encourage these illegal aliens to pursue nothing less than U.S. citizenship and to push U.S. citizens and LEGAL immigrants out of jobs here in the US.


Jose Fernando Aldana, Ph.D.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Brummett Opposes Highway Sales Tax Increase

Columnist John Brummett has been very mean to me lately.   He has quit writing stuff that is so outrageously wrong-headed that it provided a handy target for a whole quiver of my metaphorical arrows.   In other words, he is not being a good foil these days.   What a spoil sport!  I can remember back when I could count on that rascal to provide me a rich source of material week in and week out.    It made this blog so much better- and easier.  Now I have to work to find good material, which for someone as lazy as I am is quite off-putting.

He is even writing columns that I sort of agree with sometimes, and that is giving me panic attacks.   I keep thinking that I am going crazy or something.    But others have assured me that this is not true.  They say I am still the same bombastic, self-important, hyper-opinionated, self-aggrandizing ego-maniac I have always been.  What a relief!

Anyway, it turns out that, for the moment, John Brummett says he is opposed to the proposed ballot amendment to raise sales taxes (sans groceries and medicine).   The money would be used to fund a bond issue (politicians love debt) to spend on four lane highways.     Now the way he stated his opposition made it clear that he has not thought about it much, and his reason for the opposition was parochial.    Still, he came to the right place, even if it was by thoughtlessly blundering into it based mostly on feelings.   That's not how conservatives get there, but its a start.

Of course I don't expect him to stay there.    Positions taken on impulse based on parochial or emotional concerns are easily subject to manipulation.  Policy positions based on reason and principle are more unshakeable, and that's why today's political class despises them both.

He does have this interesting and true quote when noting that the highway commission took a baby step toward addressing his local pet peeve; "It is not like the Highway Commission to be even remotely flexible, so I should applaud the effort."    That's right.   It's not like them to be even remotely flexible, because flexibility flows from accountability.   The way the Highway Commission is set up they are not much accountable to anyone.  Basically it consists of nine powerful people who are probably more accustomed to speaking than listening.  They are such big players that individual legislators from either party are afraid to cross them.    They are a self-funded kingdom unto themselves.  This is an example of "fiefdom government" and it is another area in which Brummett and I concur.

You are not going to get flexibility, accountability, and responsiveness from an organization set up like the highway commission.    They are structured as an oligarchy, autocracy is built into the design.  Sure, they will feign attentiveness to the public immediately before a tax increase is on the ballot, but in the long term our experience with them will conform to the well-known scientific principle of "reversion to the mean."   The mean, or average, setting of the highway commission is that the personal agendas of the highway commissioners will take precedence over local needs on the ground.

If you have any doubt that I am right, consider that the nine commissioners are picked to represent districts whose lines were drawn based on Arkansas' population distribution in 1936!   Think of what Northwest Arkansas looked like back then verses now.   Think about how Little Rock has grown in those decades.  Obviously, population has shifted from South Arkansas and the Delta to central and northwest Arkansas during that stretch of time.   The have not even been responsive and flexible enough to assign representation by current population patterns. 

That alone makes it obvious that it would be stupid for anyone in the second or third congressional district to vote to give the highway commission any more money.     You would be voting against your own interests.   You would be throwing away all your leverage to force them to update their representation to the modern day from a time in which not only was music stored on plastic records, but those records spun at 78 RPM.

Of course the above logic does not apply to big corporations headquartered in NWA.    Those big boys have interests throughout the state.    It matters little to them whether or not the average citizen of NW or central Arkansas gets their money's worth.   The big boys will get theirs first, and leave the rest of us to fight over the scraps. 

The best case scenario would be to abolish the highway commission altogether and return their function to the legislature.  This would provide accountability to the citizens and representation is automatically adjusted to population shifts every decade.   Failing that, pressing the highway commission into much needed reform is the next best thing.   The very worst possible outcome is giving the present wasteful system our credit card so that can run up a billion dollar tab.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

I am hard on the Republican party sometimes, and they usually deserve it.  They deserve it because they represent themselves as the party of limited government, but its so obvious at the highest levels that they are misrepresenting themselves.   Citizens who really believe in limited government don't have a major political party to represent them- just a place as "outsiders" in one of them.    

But, that does not mean that there is no difference between the two parties.     Because the GOP markets itself to decent God-fearing Americans, it is, in the Bible belt anyway, frequently filled with such people.  No matter how awful the hacks in D.C. are, that cannot but help have a purifying effect on its local operations.   Salt of the earth people produce that effect in whatever place they find themselves.     The bottom line is as much as I complain about the shortcomings of the GOP in this state, the Democratic Party in Arkansas is far worse. 

This is a tale of two cities.   The Republicans and the Democrats each had conventions recently, and each had to deal with what was, from the establishment's perspective, a "rogue candidate."   On the Republican side it was Congressman Ron Paul of Texas and for the Democrats Attorney John Wolfe of Tennessee.      Paul is by far the more serious candidate, but he is also the more serious threat to have a significant impact on the convention.    Wolfe got triple the vote in the Democratic Primary that Paul got in the Republican one.   If just one of the candidates deserved to have their supporters as delegates to the national convention, Wolfe would be that one based solely on level of primary support.

But as it turned out, the Republicans followed their own rules at their district conventions, even though it meant that a number of Paul supporters were selected as delegates.    A few groused and schemed and hurled scurrilous accusations, but we saw none of the lawlessness and violence which has characterized other Republican conventions around the nation.   Elsewhere Paul supporters were openly cheated out of delegates that they otherwise would have won by following the proscribed rules.  In some cases, violence was used to block Paul-backing majorities from winning delegates by the book.     Some of the good sportsmanship here may be because the race is all but over, and they lacked the numbers needed to really take over the state party.  Still, the bottom line is that the insiders of the Republican party followed their own rules.   This is to their credit, especially when compared with the other major name-brand....

The Democrats held a secret convention behind locked doors, despite their rulebook calling for an open convention.    Apparently they were so eaten-up with party spirit that they did not want any possibility of anyone showing up as a Wolfe delegate.    Really, if you read the account, the way they ran their event was contrary to the high-ideals in their own rulebook in several different ways.      The Democrats are not the rule of law party, they are the rule of Man party.   No dissent from the boss man of the day is permitted.   No error can be admitted.   No restraint or contrary viewpoint can be given place.    This power-worship, which is the polar opposite of principle and the rule of law, is scary.    People who think like that should not be given power.    They won't allow discordant feedback from reality when their policies take the nation off the rails.

The Republicans are about to have their state convention.  We will see if they have the same sense of fairness and decorum they showed at their district conventions, but so far things look good.     Following your own rules is a test of character, and the Democratic Party of Arkansas failed that test in rather overwhelming fashion.  When are self-respecting grassroots Democrats going to quit defending this closed club of low and lawless behavior?   How can good government come from such an unaccountable political machine?   I don't say switch the same blind allegiance to the GOP.  Let's see beyond that red-blue thing.    I am saying quit being aligned at all, until you find an organization which operates at a level of openness, honesty, and integrity to merit your loyalty. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Emotion Vs. Justice in Illegal Immigration

 Huckabee Feeling Good About the Move

The media is full of video of bright-eyed and respectable young Latinos celebrating Resident Obama's decision to disregard Congress and essentially quit enforcing immigration law with respect to certain classes of illegal aliens.    When I saw them on television I shared their joy.  No human with a heart could fail to be moved by the plight of a person brought to this country illegally by their parents when they were maybe five years old.   Many from this group consider the United States their home, but are still living with the fear of deportation as a consequence of their parent's actions.   My heart goes out to them.   

At the same time, I will never forget what an old black Pentecostal preacher said to us at a revival I was attending; "Emotions make a good caboose, but a bad engine."    Our minds, renewed by and connected to the Holy Spirit of God, ought to be the Engine.   If we do that then our lives will be guided by reason, justice, principle, and truth.   The cars of the train should be our actions which follow along where the engine of our mind takes us.

Lastly, the caboose should be the emotions.   We will have positive emotions if our minds are right, and our right actions follow our right minds.   People who put emotions first fall into a trap.   They want to feel good now regardless of what the righteous mind might think of it and regardless of what the actions will lead to in the long run.     People who put feeling good first often wind up miserable.  People who put right thinking first wind up with the most satisfying emotions as a side-effect.

With that in mind, let's consider not how we feel when we see happy young people being cut a break on TV, but rather reason, justice, principle, and truth.    How then might we rationally evaluate this move, made months before an election?    The most glaring thing is that we now have an imperial Presidency and an impotent legislature.    The DREAM ACT is still before Congress.   It would legislate the policy which Obama is pursuing on his own.  But it has not passed.  Rather, Obama is personally deciding, without legislative authorization, which laws he will enforce and which he will not.

This is an extremely dangerous precedent for those who want to live in a Republic rather than a revolving dictatorship.     I find this administration to be shockingly lawless, this being but the latest example.   The nation has been taken to war in Libya, and now in Syria and Iran, without even consulting Congress, much less declaring war.     He has asserted the right to detain indefinitely, or even assassinate, American citizens without trial and without regard to the protections enumerated in our Bill of Rights.   Though the judiciary is resisting that last outrage, Congress has become irrelevant.    Are the good feelings one gets when watching the smiling young people on television worth the end of our Republic?  The end of the rule of law and the beginning of rule by executive fiat?

Don't expect any help on this issue from Mitt Romney either.   In his tepid response, Romney made no mention of the dictatorial nature of Obama's actions.   He only mentioned that executive orders were "temporary solutions" since they can be changed by future executives.  Heck, Governor, laws can be changed by future legislatures too, if laws mattered anymore.  Clearly you, like Obama, are comfortable with the idea of the Executive branch usurping legislative authority.   In a post-Republic revolving-dictatorship form of government, you seem to be looking forward to your shot at dictator.

But my objections so far would apply to any executive usurpation of power, whether the policy considered was a good idea or a bad one.   Let us now examine the logic and reason given as to why this particular act would be good policy or bad....

The primary appeal is to "justice" because many of these young people were taken by their parents into the county illegally.   They did not choose to break the law, their parents did.     Now this country feels more like home to them than the place they were born does.   Where is the fairness in deporting them, especially if they have lived virtuous lives here?

Well there is no doubt that these young people have been put in a predicament by their situation.  The question is who should bear moral responsibility for their plight?    If the public, then the public is obligated to make it right, if another, then that other is obligated to make it right.     In this case, it was the young person's own parents who put them in this situation.    The moral responsibility is not on the child, but it does not fall on the public either.    The only adult making a knowledgeable choice was the parent.

Of course, it is wrong to punish children for the sins of their parents.    No one is suggesting that.   But deportation is not prison.     We are not taking away from them even one thing that they would otherwise be entitled to.  It is simply taking from them something that they were never entitled to in the first place.   What has happened is that through the fault of their parents (not them, not the public) they became accustomed to something they were not entitled to.    

Suppose you owned a home in a distant state.  Times were good so for five years you paid on it but never got a chance to visit.  Finally declining economic circumstances led you to realize you needed to get this home in order and start renting it out.    Suppose when you got there, you found that a family had moved in without your knowledge or consent and misrepresented themselves to neighbors as legitimate occupiers of the house.    An eight year old child had been living there.   Are you wrong to tell the family that you want them pay rent or to move out and take away "the only home this child had ever known?"   

You are not the bad guy in this situation.   The child is not the bad guy.   The parents are the bad guys.   You are not "punishing" the child because you are not taking from them anything they were ever entitled to have.   They are not worse off after you eject them than they were before they entered your property illegally.  In fact, they benefited from the free use and enjoyment of something they were not entitled to for years.  All you are doing is ending the benefit, not punishing them.

Honestly, I don't know how we can enforce any laws against any parents if such thinking is taken to its logical conclusion.      Any time you send parents to prison and children have to be given to someone else it is pretty much the same situation.    The children are suffering as a result of the parent's actions.  It is heartbreaking, but the state is not at fault.     If parents steal a million dollars and give it to their children, is it "punishing" the children to return the money to the rightful owners?

Let's go further.  What about job and educational opportunities in our terrible economy?   What happens to the legal citizens who should have gotten them when the illegals are allowed to stay?   What does it say to those waiting in line to get in according to the law?  This is a complicated moral situation.  It is a mistake to form policy based on emotion generated by which side you saw on TV.  In this situation, to show mercy to some, is to show cruelty to others who are at least as innocent.   I am not arguing against mercy.  I am arguing that who we show mercy to be decided by reason and principle, not emotion.

Of course there all always individual exceptions to these sorts of moral generalizations.   For example a virtuous young person in this predicament could enlist in the military and save the lives of ten of their fellow soldiers.    Would it be just to deport such a person?   Of course not.    They may have been brought here illegally, but they purchased their right to remain through gallantry, virtue and contribution to the defense of the nation.     Exceptions exist, but the just and proper way to consider exceptions is individually.   Justice cannot be well meted out by group parameters.      Failing to uphold the law based on group criteria is injustice just as surely as failure to reward the exception is injustice.

But of course the most virtuous of all such a group, to a level of virtue and integrity rarely seen in our post-modern world which has rejected those values, would be a young person who self-deported and then applied for a legal immigration status back into their heart-home.    This would be an act so full of respect for our laws, and so worthy of merit that it would be impossible to find any just grounds to keep from moving them near the front of the line to gain legal entry.      However we live in an age where many are quick to demand what they see as their "rights" but few are willing to accept and respect the responsibilities with which true rights are co-mingled.

The people of a nation have every right to know who wishes to enter their land, and permit or deny entry as their own government sees fit.    A virtuous immigrant who wants to be an American citizen does not "take jobs" from us, for such a person will give more to the economy than they take.   The trouble is that when an immigrant is an illegal one, we have no way to tell if they are givers or takers.   All we know is that they are not respecting our laws.  That's wrong, and we ought to have a say, through our elected representatives, if anything can be done about it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

With Republicans Like These, Who Needs Democrats?

Sheffield Nelson has a long political resume, including a former Chairman of the State Republican party and former Republican candidate for Governor.    He is now the leader of a movement to raise taxes in the state.  In this case, a tax on natural gas pulled from the ground called a "severance tax".    His team has not garnered enough signatures yet to get the proposed tax increase on the ballot, but there will still be at least one tax increase for patriots to vote down....

Republican Representative Johnathan Barnett was one of the leading advocates for a referred amendment to "temporarily" raise the sales tax (sans groceries and medicine).  It will be on the ballot this November.  Amend the state constitution to raise a tax for ten years?  And where are the Republican representatives and Senators who have come out against this proposed tax increase?

With Republicans like this, Arkansas does not need Democrats.    We especially don't need them tag-teaming up to try and convince us to give them even more of our earnings.  As the late great George Carlin put it, “The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”."  Increasingly, politicians go into the Republican side of the system opposing tax increases, then after the system has a while to work on them, they become tax-and-spenders and central planners.     

This is exactly why we have seen the rise of grassroots organizations like Secure Arkansas (of which I am a member), Conservative Arkansas, and several Tea Party groups (such as the mis-named Washington County Tea Party which actually operates in the whole NWA region) in the state.    They are a response to a political system which assigns them to a team they see as increasingly working to frustrate their interests.   

Not that the sponsors of these two tax proposals are even in agreement.   There seems to be a bit of division in establishment Republican ranks as to which proposal to raise your taxes ought to be implemented.   It is commonly said that Nelson does not care for the Stephens'.  The Stephens have substantial gas interests in the state. Further, the Barnett proposal would use the tax revenues to fund a bond purchase (politicians love debt, they can buy votes now and your children can pay off their promises later).    As financial kingpins who often get a cut of the state's bond issues, the Stephens empire benefits from more government debt in the state.    Nelson's proposal does not mention the debt.   The funds from both proposals would mostly go to the same place- highways.
I find it interesting that so many candidates talk about how opposed they are to tax increases in general, but so often it turns out that the one tax increase they favor is the proposal currently being discussed.   Yep, they are against tax increases, but the state really needs this one.    Look, a tax increase right now is crazy talk in general and these two proposals are specifically crazy in their own, special, individual way- except for the special interests who will disproportionately benefit from them.

The sales tax increase for roads is specifically crazy because road funds should be payed in correlation to road use.   That means motor fuel taxes and vehicle registration, just like we do it now.   Shifting the costs for roads onto sales taxes means that elderly people on fixed incomes who can't even drive will subsidize trucking firms and companies with significant in-house trucking fleets.   They tear up the roads, and the bill gets sent to someone else.  Its bad government 101.

The severance tax advocates could at least argue that drilling activity increases road use so that there is a somewhat better correlation between who pays the taxes for roads and who uses them.   And the proposal avoids the catastrophic misstep of pledging all the future revenues of the tax to fund a debt issue.  But the biggest problem with the tax increase proposal is that there will not be any additional revenues if it is passed.  I predict a loss of revenue from the tax's target of natural gas drilling.

Nelson commissioned Dr. Charles Venus to do a "study" on the effect of raising the taxes.  Venus claimed it would increase tax revenues by about $150 million dollars.   He is wrong.   Remember that our current rates 5% for strong producing wells, but 1.5% for the low-margin weak-producing wells) represent a 1,600% increase in severance tax rates from their low level when Gov. Mike Beebe took office.   And this titanic increase in tax rates produced a 10% drop in tax revenues!  That was in 2009.  Barely three years later tax-increase advocates claim that if we raise the rates again this time it will have the opposite effect!    
If we raise the rates it will not produce growth, it will cost jobs just like it did last time.  Gas drillers can go anywhere they want to drill.   These projects are decided on the margin.    This is about killing drilling, not raising revenues.   I am in the oil and gas business myself, and let me tell you that a lot of land owners love to see us coming, not just with royalties from drilling but many more get big checks for pipeline easements.  All that, along with the jobs to build them, goes away at some tax point.    

In most states the severance tax does not start until drilling expenses have been recouped.  In this proposal, they are taxed from day one, making the effective rate almost triple the nominal rate of 7% in the current profit environment (about 25% profit).    Simple comparisons of the tax rate in neighboring states can't be made because of this key structural difference.    If it costs you six million to drill, and your well is a poor well that only draws five million worth of gas, not only would your business venture lose a million dollars, but the state would claim you owed $350,000 worth of taxes on your "profits".  Would you pick Arkansas to operate in under those conditions?  Neither will the drillers.

The backers of both proposals are using Obama-esque arguments that tax increases  will "create jobs".    It is rubbish when he says it and its rubbish when they say it.   The population is split between big-spending/high taxing central planners and responsible people who just want to be left alone.  Unfortunately, instead of each group getting their own political party, the central planners and big spenders have all of the Democratic Party and most of the Republican one.   They only quibble about whose friends get the money.  That's why these grassroots groups mostly rise up on the right.  They are dis-satisfied with a political system which gives the other world-view a political party but only pretends to give them one.   With Republicans like this, who needs Democrats?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Limbaugh Was Trying to Say

"I'm still not nailing this" Rush Limbaugh said on his program yesterday concerning the issue of policemen, firemen, and teachers and whether we need more of them to aide in economic recovery.   And indeed he wasn't.    I am not a big Limbaugh fan as a policy guy, but he is a great entertainer.   So let me see if I can say what he was trying to say and should have said:

Firemen and policemen are very important, and so are teachers.   But adding more of them will not produce an economic recovery.   That's because the first two groups don't create wealth, their job is to protect the wealth which others have created.   Teachers, if they are doing their job correctly, can indirectly create wealth in the long term by maximizing the intellectual capacity of the next generation, but the lag time on such benefits can be decades in the future.  And of course, I would argue that federal mismanagement of education, a job for which the Constitution gives the federal government no role whatsoever, has reduced rather than enhanced the efficiency of education in that long-term wealth-producing role.

If the bottleneck in our economy was destruction by fire then adding more firemen would help.   That is to say, if the bean makers said "I am not going to invest in increasing bean production this year because half the time a fire comes along and burns them up anyway" then adding firemen would help.    If bean makers said "why invest in making more beans because thieves are probably just going to steal them anyway" then adding more police could help.   As we will see, that is happening, but because of the identity and operating methods of the thieves, adding more police will not reduce their criminal behavior one iota.

That leaves teachers.   I taught myself for many years.   I am sympathetic to teachers, but adding more teachers will not help this economy.   If there are no jobs, it does not matter how well-educated people are.   Half the waiters and waitresses in town have college degrees.  It is shortcomings in other factors of production that is holding us back.  The supply of formally educated workers is not the bottleneck in this economy, and therefore adding more of them or those who help train them will not help this economy.

To simplify, let's look at producing wealth as making beans.   Some people make the beans, some get them to market, and some sell them.   All that produces wealth because it helps the free market mechanism of voluntary exchange which leads to win-win trades.    Other people guard the beans.  They have an important job, but until bean theft (or loss from fire) reaches levels that a significant slice of people quit making, distributing, and selling beans because of that theft (or fire loss) then they really don't help add any new beans to the economy.  

Again, don't misunderstand me, when bean thieves are about or the fires are raging, they preserve not just beans, but us bean-makers as well!   But the drag on our economy is a special kind of bean thief.   The fires which ravage our economy are metaphorical.     The government itself is the bean thief, along with the financial interests which have captured a lot of our government.      Adding more police to watch us won't help, because the real stealing of beans that discourages people from doing the work needed to make more beans is being done by the government itself.

Even stealing more beans to add more cops won't help the economy, because those cops are not about to arrest the real crooks.     More fireman cannot put out the metaphorical fires of financial ruin the predatory banks have unleashed.   Better educated minds have little opportunity to put their creativity to work in an economy which lacks the other inputs necessary to create wealth.

A lack of policeman, firemen, and teachers is simply not the bottleneck in this economy.   Debt is.  We have a financial system loaded with bad debt, but because that debt is also counted as "assets" by the richest and most powerful entities in the world, they are forcing the political system to treat this bad debt as if it had full value.    Until they allow the market to liquidate the bad debt at its real value, economic recovery will not occur.  Excess debt and bad debt is plugging up economic growth.    The plan now seems to be to shift as many of those bad debts as possible on the backs of the taxpayers, and only then let the true lack of value become known.   Rush Limbaugh was not trying to say this part, because he either does not understand it or because the people he is working for do not want his audience to understand what is really going on.

Those who protect wealth have a noble calling, just as those who produce it do.   But there is also a class of government employees who neither produce beans nor protect them.   Their job is to redistribute the beans that others have produced and protected.    They take the beans from those who earned them and give those beans to others that the government feels ought to have them more.  For instance Resident Obama decided that former ACORN director Joe McGavin should have $445 million dollars worth of beans to redistribute.   ACORN of course is infamous for its level of corruption under McGavin.      He is supposed to use the money to help underwater home owners in Illinois pay their mortgage.

Wait a minute Mark, isn't that helping to "liquidate the bad debt" as well as help those poor homeowners?   No.  It's another welfare program for the giant banks.  The bad debt isn't being liquidated, its being payed off with tax money.  If the bad debt was liqudated banks would be stuck with either nothing or homes worth less than is owed on them. To prevent them from having to take a loss due to their own poor decision-making they are propping up the bad debt by taking $445 million dollars, minus whatever McGavin is going to steal, from us bean makers and giving it to the banks through these poor home "owners."     Meanwhile if they really wanted to help people become homeowners they would let the prices fall to their market level instead of propping prices up on the backs of the taxpayers in order to keep the foreclosing banks from taking a loss.

Again, the financial interests who have captured our government simply won't take the hit for the mal-investments they have made.   They are passing the costs onto us bean makers with the help of government bean re-distributors who pretend it is being done to "help the poor."    It is very discouraging for us bean-makers when we go to all this trouble to make beans, and the government comes and takes $445 million dollars worth of them away from us in order to give it to a politically connected redistributor who is really funneling the money to financial elites that want to shift the costs of their mistakes onto us.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Was the Deluge 12,900 Years Ago?

Another interesting post from Science Daily, a completely secular and pro-evolution website, about the possible cause of an odd climate shift they estimate occurred about 12,900 years ago.   About that time earth's climate, in particular the Northern Hemisphere, shifted into a thousand year-long cooling period called the "Younger Dryas."   Here is what the article says about it.....
"This episode occurred at or close to the time of major extinction of the North American megafauna, including mammoths and giant ground sloths; and the disappearance of the prehistoric and widely distributed Clovis culture."
The article says that they have found evidence for a potential cosmic cause for the sudden shift - our planet's collision with a swarm of cometary or meteoric bodies.   They found melt-glass like that produced at impact craters around the world which date from the same period.  Such glass as they put it...
"are indicative of high-energy cosmic airbursts/impacts, bolstering the contention that these events induced the beginning of the Younger Dryas. That time was a major departure in biotic, human and climate history."
 The authors note that such melt-glass has been found in Arizona, Venezuela, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Germany, and Syria.        While they emphasize the heat and fires associated with impacts or air-bursts, it is easy to see how such an epic event could also trigger the most massive flooding mankind has ever seen.    Here is how it could have gone down....

Comets are basically space ice-bergs with some rocks mixed in.   Imagine dozens or even hundreds of them, each the size of a small city, hurtling into the atmosphere at once.  Wait, don't imagine it.  Here is some video which ends with shots from when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter.   Consider that Earth is to Jupiter as a dime is to a dinner plate in diameter, and it is clear that each of those fragments at the end of the video produced a disturbance the size of the entire earth.

They would mostly vaporize through friction with the atmosphere, leaving an additional sea of water vapor in a hotter atmosphere.   The hard parts that hit the ground would produce intense heat, producing fires across continents.  The hard parts that hit the water would vaporize a lot more water and send it skyward.  The heat and the fires would evaporate more water in the immediate aftermath of the blazes.    Within days though, the particulate matter from the fires would begin to block sunlight from reaching earth, if the debris from the comet was not already doing so.  Atmospheric temperatures would then plunge globally.    Warm air can hold much more moisture than cold air can.

Take a hotter than normal atmosphere that was super-loaded with moisture and then radically reduce its moisture carrying capacity by quickly cooling it, and the planet's atmosphere drops the moisture.     When I say "super-loaded" I mean that even the extended carrying capacity of a temporarily warmer atmosphere was exceeded and the water began forming liquid drops, but the rising hot air from the fires and impacts held them aloft when they otherwise would have fallen, much like Summer rain drops tend to be larger than Winter ones.

I had previously noted this article from the same source which analyzed the DNA of a number of types of animals both living and dead.   They expected to find a loss of species diversity from whatever the heck happened to earth 12,900 years ago.    What they found was more dominant was a loss in genetic diversity.    That would be consistent with most types of animals surviving, but only a few members of each type.

I don't know that the Younger Dryas event was the aftermath of the Deluge.   I do find it interesting that a globally devastating event occurred at the beginning of human civilization.   The article notes that human culture changed in the fertile crescent after the event from hunter-gather to agriculture in settled villages.   In other words, right after this calamity, people began living in a much more civilized fashion.